Published: March 2024

Journal: Preventing Chronic Disease

Authors: Tsai MM, Anderson CE, Whaley SE, Yepez CE, Ritchie LD, Au LE

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The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides nutrition support for racially and ethnically diverse populations. In 2021, the monthly cash value benefit (CVB) for the purchase of fruits and vegetables increased from $9 to $35 and was later adjusted to $24. This study investigated, by racial and ethnic groups, whether CVB increases were associated with increases in CVB redemption, household food security, child fruit and vegetable intake, satisfaction with CVB amount, and likelihood of continued participation in WIC if the CVB returned to $9 per month. We conducted a longitudinal study of WIC participants (N = 1,770) in southern California at 3 time points, from April 2021 through May 2022; the CVB amount was $9 at baseline, $35 at Survey 2, and $24 at Survey 3. Racial and ethnic groups were Hispanic English-speakers, Hispanic Spanish-speakers, non-Hispanic Asian, non-Hispanic Black, non-Hispanic Other, and non-Hispanic White. We used mixed-effect and modified Poisson regressions to evaluate outcomes by group. At baseline, groups differed significantly in dollars of CVB redeemed, percentage of CVB redeemed, household food security, and satisfaction with CVB amount. After the increase in CVB, we found increases in all groups in CVB redemption, household food security, and satisfaction. Non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic English-speaking groups, who had low levels of satisfaction at baseline, had larger increases in satisfaction than other groups. Reported likelihood of continued WIC participation if the monthly CVB returned to $9 also differed significantly by group, ranging from 62.5% to 90.0%. The increase in CVB for children receiving WIC benefited all racial and ethnic groups. Continued investment in an augmented CVB could improve health outcomes for a racially and ethnically diverse WIC population.

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